Real Quick Note for all interested

May 14, 2009

Ok this is not a full post by any means (that comes later and in its full glory!) Just wanted to share the link to my Photobucket album that I’m dumping all of the pics from the trip onto. I know I add a picture or two to each post, but this is a much more extensive visual aid. So here you go, http://s18.photobucket.com/albums/b141/Pbitty/Japan%202009/

Full post coming early morning for those of you back in the states!

~Pat

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Places to Go, People to See: Japan Gets Busier on Day Three

May 13, 2009

See what I did there with the rhyming title? I enjoyed it. Anywho, since my last post was technically this morning I can’t rightfully call this a third separate day of posting; however, three days have past since I took off from MSP so I feel I can get away with it. The day began with waking up at the bright and early time of 3:30AM local while Jet lag beat the hell out of me (and is still doing so). After a morning walk around the block, we made our way to a nearby Shinto shrine where we did the traditional picture snapping and silly pose making that all tourists are entitled to before coming back to the apartment for a “class” meeting. Around 11:00AM we were greeted by the director of international students here at Bunkyo, and were then given an official tour of the campus which culminated in a lunch reception with a large number of English Communication Majors from Bunkyo (all but one were women coincidentally), the President of the university, and an array of faculty. Now, in case breaking the ice isn’t hard enough in the US, imagine popping up and introducing yourself to a group of complete strangers who you can barely communicate with! Well I had nothing to lose and stepped up to the plate to introduce myself, and after a few awkward misinterpretations and some formalities on the part of the President and her cohorts we were all hitting it off pretty well!Our Host Students :-)

The Bunkyo students were all extremely kind and welcoming, offering to take us out on the town all weekend; an offer which we graciously accepted (Sushi dates tomorrow night!)

The afternoon passed slowly by. I had a homesick moment when I looked at my time change and desperately wished I wasn’t so horribly thrown off right now, but it has since worn off a bit. I’ve found these feelings sort of come and go as certain things come to mind. In the late afternoon we headed off on what would be about a 30 minute walk down to the area surrounding the Tokyo Dome where we were to meet some of Steve’s old friends for dinner. My impression of the whole city warped with every step down to towards the Dome. Broken down houses and cramped alleys gave way to freshly paved streets lined with neatly trimmed trees and a host of flashing lights, nicely kept shops, and skyscrapers. The most drastic landmark however was about 250 feet or so in the air (if I had to guess)–a roller coaster! Yeah, a roller coaster in the middle of Tokyo, right next to the mammoth Tokyo Dome. Surrounding a portion of the Tokyo Dome City as its called was a very Vegas-like reminder of Home in the form of numerous water jets all spraying to the tune of a classical piece. Seeing the absurd amounts of glitz and glamor also reminded me of how different this city is now from just a century before. I was reading through a book written in the 1930’s today when I came across a passage on how the Japanese don’t care for excessive lights and shine; ironically, that is what a city with something explicitly called “electric town” is known for now! Oh how the times change…

Dinner–crazy. We go into this tiny little eatery where we’re greeted by a host of old friends of Steve who he hadn’t seen in 10 years or so. The menus were all in Japanese which somehow led to multiple small dishes being ordered for our table by those who could speak the language. First, a small bowl of mashed radishes came out, not great. Next was a community salad followed by a larger plate full of skewers of various meats and veggies. The skewer of liver was not particularly appealing; however, the chicken, Okra (I think) and Bacon-wrapped asparagus were quite yummy! The craziest thing of the night though? Whole fish complete with eggs inside them. It was at the time I bit into one of these little devils that I hastily lost my appetite and retired to sipping my frosty Japanese beer and chatting. The day ended with getting to talk to a close friend and loading the pics of the day so you all can enjoy them. Tomorrow I’m up around 4:30 to head down to the Tsukiji Fish Market to check out crazy fish throwing and auctioning and things of that nature. For now though, I need to pass out. Until next time

~~Pat

I made it!!!!…Through the Quarentine?

May 12, 2009

So Swine flu is a funny thing…just when you think you’ve heard the last of it, the stupid thing comes back with vengeance to mess with your life once again. I’ll skip right to the good part of the day since no one wants to hear about the twelve hours I spent in a airplane yesterday. Needless to say, it was long, it was really long, but surprisingly, not as bad as I thought. Anyway, I spent the flight delving into a book on Japanese culture and history, and managed to get a good deal through it on the way (believe it or not). While we snaked through the endless rice patties and low lying clusters of run down houses on board Tokyo’s metro train we managed to run into three high school-aged Japanese girls nervously practicing their English. Seeing this I couldn’t help but wonder what an English class in Japan must be like. I mean, here I was sporting a 300 page block of text on their peoples’ history and culture, and what the hell would a “Guide to American Culture and History” have in it? Cheeseburgers, The Revolution, and some fat people? I’ve decided I’m going to do my best to scrounge up one of these relics while in Japan in an attempt to figure this mystery out! But more on that later.

Moving on, I was halfway between switching my inflight movie selection from the good parts of Caddyshack to Milk when the screen went blank and presented the whole passenger base with “Passenger Announcement in Process.” Attention pricked, the flight attended comes over the loud speaker to give us the lovely news that we would be staying on the ground an extra hour while we filled out these health questionnaires, got our temperature taken, and got individually questioned about the aforementioned questionnaire responses. At this point I couldn’t help but laugh since I had already spent far too much of my life in this fluorescent hell hole and didn’t really see the harm one more hour would bring me; plus, half of the Japanese women on the plane were already in masks and looked at me like a leper, so I really had nothing to lose. Long story short–we were quarantined. A group of eight or so members from the Ministry of Health boarded our plane, complete with an ominous orange glow that haunted us from the open aircraft door, and proceeded to take the whole airplane’s temperature using an infrared camera which, for personal satisfaction, I smiled and waved at. Imagine the scene from ET when the officials are all in full suits with cords connecting them to the outside world and that would be roughly what it was like. Each passenger got asked several questions regarding their health and an hour later the process was completed. Result? We passed!

Our Yellow, "I don't have Swine Flu" papers!

Our Yellow, "I don't have Swine Flu" papers!

The tale of Swine Flu doesn’t end there folks; after becoming lost in Tokyo (good job Steve!), we finally rolled into Bunkyo at about 7:45PM Local time. Side note: things our group assumed wrong about Japan: One, many people speak English; two, the University administration would be able to speak English; three, we would have a decent amount of freedom at the University while there; and four, Japanese cab drivers are all nice and don’t mind helping you out. Anyway, we arrive at the international dorm after snaking through some of the most sketchy looking alleys I have ever seen for what seemed like an eternity, and during the orientation the woman tells us that as part of a precaution against H1N1 we are all required to take and record our temperature every morning. What elicited the shutter from everyone is when she held up the sizable thermometer and exclaimed, “We do not take it inn the mouth here”–thankfully she was referring to the armpit instead.

Well it was at this point where I couldn’t take it anymore and unpacked my stuff then crashed. Some 26 hours awake and 6000 miles traveled and I am done. The best part was that after sleeping from 9:00 to 1:00AM, I am up and ready to go which is why I sit here typing now. To finish up, I am safely over here for everyone who cares, and I’m making the most out of it. Until next time~

~Pat

May 11th: Day 0

May 11, 2009
Well I finally have arrived at the point where I’m ready to fly off. Having packed what seems like way too much into a giant dufflebag, said goodbye to all of my friends and family, and resigned myself to the fact that I’m about to experience the most tiring 48 hours of my life, I am finally ready to just do this thing! This is just a quick entry to let everyone reading this (friends and family mostly) that I will be doing my best to Blog from this site daily on what I am doing, pictures, videos, etc. while I’m over in Japan trying to keep myself together. I’ll be dropping this Link onto my Facebook account as well as Emailing it out to those of you who haven’t joined the world yet! I thought a little glimpse of some of the places I’ll be going to in the next two weeks might be an appropriate first step to this adventure so here you go :-). First off, I’ll be staying at Bunkyo University Bunkyo which is a private school much like CSB/SJU. The school is one of the many around the world Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s has an affiliation with,  and we have an exchange program with them, if I’m not mistaken, that sends some of their students to Minnesota every year (don’t quote me on that one). Moving on, looks like when we arrive in the Narita airport (it’s actually quite a ways out of Tokyo we’ll be taking a train in) we’ll be headed to the university and to what will most likely be a swift “passing-out.” Wednesday is looking like we’ll be attending a welcome party for our group with students and faculty from Bunkyo (more details that day obviously!), and exploring the nearby area. I don’t want to give too much away right now, but I promise to do my best to keep you all up to speed on this exciting adventure! So for now I am off to stuff my computer into my backpack and enjoy one more brisk walk around the neighborhood before spending a full day in an aluminum tube. All the best, ~~Pat